Kidney stones and the backcountry

Hi all,

Anyone here suffer from kidney stones? I just passed my fourth one in about seven years. Had to attend ER 3 times, primarily because my prescription was out of date and no longer effective. CT scan says more are waiting up in both kidneys. Haven’t needed lithotripsy yet.

I’m most curious what the group thinks about kayaking and traveling in the backcountry, solo or in a group, with this condition. I read discussions elsewhere about hiking with diabetes, heart conditions, and even seizure disorders, so I know others are debating similar issues.


Had one back in '78…

– Last Updated: Aug-27-11 10:38 PM EST –

in de middle o' de night. Dag-nabbit, dem's do smart a bit dun't dems? After lookin' around fer somebody wit a shootin' iron ta put me out o' me torments, ah's jus' curled up on de floor in a pool o' sweat but 5 hours later pissed it out - never did go to de sawbones. Haven't had one since, so ah' dun't really ponder about it on an eextended trip.


i too suffered
From frequent kidney stones. I passed two that I know of and had bladder symptoms of others. Mine are caused by a manageable condition. If you haven’t been to a urologist, go. I’m glad I’m not the only one who worries anytime they feel a pain near the back region.

As far as the back country, it would be wise to carry pain killers. Not sure a doctor will give you them just in case, but probably if you explain the situation. Either way, at the onset of symptoms you would need to get back in case of blockage. It would be hard to keep moving. If no pain meds, then a combo of two advil and two tylenol would maybe help, but i doubt it. It would be awful but I figure people passed them for a long time before meds. Staying hydrated, maybe even a little too hydrated before and during the trip could help. Good luck.

Ryan L.

If you are worried about it…
just carry a PLB.

Once you initiate it, you would be rescued in a very short time.

If you are heading into the back country or wilderness I would advise getting one.

Jack L

That really sucks.

– Last Updated: Aug-28-11 11:49 PM EST –

Yah, there's no pain quite like a kidney stone. =O

I've had one and only one, and that was something like 10-12 years ago. Pain was *devastating*, and right in the groin area. Took three Aleve, which took a tiny bit of the edge off, but that's it... still hurt like hell.

After a few hours of this, finally went to the ER, just in time to pass el stone and be fine. It's the weirdest feeling... agony, and then suddenly *bam*, it's all gone.

Talking to the doctor, I was advised to "quit drinking tea" and to reduce my calcium intake, so as not to get any more stones. The funny thing, haven't gotten any more stones, but I drink more tea now than I did then, and my calcium intake is probably almost as high... switched from cow milk to soy milk, both have a lot of calcium.

I sometimes think the doctors don't really *know* what causes these, they're just guessing/picking from among competing unproven theories.

What really seemed to make the difference was just a general healthy change of diet... a lot less junk food, a lot less fat and processed foods. Don't know if there's a connection, but the dietary change occurred shortly after I got the stone, and I didn't get any more after that, even though it runs in the family.

I also lost 25 lbs from doing that, so that's a big bonus as well.

Hope you can get to a place where they're less of a problem for you.

Far as dealing with the possibility while paddling, only thing I can think of is to not go on long trips where there's no bailout beaches/landing spots within easy reach (those should be '24-hour' beaches too, not ones that only exist at low tide, since you could be down for awhile), and have several Alleve or even prescription pain-killers (long as they don't make you puke or whatever- Vicodin is infamous for that) with you at all times.

Wish you luck.

I lived with one stuck in the pipeline
for seven months. Episodes could occur at any time. Twice or three times a day, or sometimes not for weeks at a time. Sometimes they’d last for 15 minutes, other times as long as six hours. All I know is that when the symptoms began to present, I had about 5 minutes to get myself horizontal. I was lucky it never happened at the most inconvenient times.

It’s a tough one, for sure. Only you know what’s best. I’d take precautions and advise consulting your urologist at the recommended intervals.

Good luck. I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy.

Stop eating sugar and the stones will stop forming.

Drink lot’s of water
all the time! I’ve had them too and as others have said, the pain is excruciating! Good luck!

My guy recommended citrus drinks
and cutting out salt. What I learned is that I’d likely spent a good bit of my adult life dehydrated and that a tiny 2mm crystal can feel like the asteroid from the movie “Armageddon”.

That is awful. I was in the ER one
Friday night with my wife whose hand had been ripped open by a dog.

A young woman came in with a kidney stone and I have seldom seen anyone in such pain.We were glad to let her get treated first.

Am I crazy…
I was also looking for opinions on whether kayaking into the backcountry with this condition is unwise (crazy) or not. Any thoughts?


I gave my opinion above
if you can afford a PLB and don’t get one then you are crazy.

Cost is a few hundred bucks, and you are good for five years and registered with NOAA who will notify the closest rescue outfit any place in the world

Jack L

Your not crazy. You are probably still more likely to need rescue from an accident or other health issue. Kidney stones aren’t likely to kill you. Possible but not that likely. Even getting them on the wilderness probably isnt reason to get a helicopter rescue. But you do need to get some sound medical advice.

Ryan L.

Google Chrome…
…can’t translate that. :slight_smile:

If the OP’s symptoms are at all like
my experiences, he risks being incapacitated at any time for unpredictable duration. I think jackL’s advice is sound.